Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based chain of arts-and-crafts stores, became a household name in June when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the self-proclaimed Christian company‘s right not to offer insurance coverage for contraceptives that the chain’s owners feel violate their religious beliefs.
But in a case that will never go to the Supreme Court, or any court, Hobby Lobby was not as willing to support an employee’s right to bear children, according to working mom Felicia Allen, who told her story to the news site RH Reality Check.
The now 32-year-old mom had two children, but says she was unaware that she was pregnant with her third when she took a job as a part-time cashier at a Hobby Lobby outlet in July of 2010.
She soon found out, and says she knew that she had not worked at the store long enough to qualify for protection under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, so she asked her supervisor if her job would still be there when she got back from maternity leave. The boss told her it would be.
“I felt like everything was OK,” Allen said. “I had talked to my boss, and she let me know that everything would be OK. I would still have my job.”
But when she tried to return to work after taking just three weeks off to have her child, the store told her she was fired. Under the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act, mothers are allowed up to 12 weeks off without losing their jobs.
“She can’t terminate me because I have to go have my child,” Allen said. “I started asking everybody on the job, ‘Can they do this?’ And even the assistant manager who had just got hired [said,] ‘No, that’s not right.'”
But only did Hobby Lobby refuse to budge on allowing the mom of what were now three kids back to work to help support her family, the company attempted to deny her unemployment benefits.
While Hobby Lobby has so far declined to comment on Allen’s case, the mom says that the company came up with a false story, charging that she had refused to take a personal leave offered to her.
“How can you be Christian and lie about something to hinder your employee or don’t want them to come back after they’ve had their baby?” Allen said to RH Reality Check writer Sofie Resnick. ” I feel like that’s not being Christian at all.”
She eventually won her dispute over unemployment benefits, but Allen cannot pursue her discrimination allegations in court because, while Hobby Lobby itself took its contraception case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the company makes employees sign a waiver of their rights to sue the company in court, allowing Hobby Lobby employees to resolve disputes only through an arbitration process.